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The Finn – THE classic power dinghy

The Finn – THE classic power dinghy – was designed to test the best individual sailor at the Olympic Games, but its long reign looks to be in danger as it heads for its 18th Olympics in Tokyo 2020.

The 2018 season is inexorably heading towards the first 2020 Olympic qualification event, at the world championship in Aarhus in August. This is the main objective for most sailors this year on the increasingly narrow and tortuous trail to Tokyo.

But following the decision of the World Sailing Events Committee to recommend that the Men's One Person Dinghy Heavyweight (Finn) catagory should be placed under review, that long and illustrious record could be coming to an end.

The Events Committee decision (12 of the 14 voting recommended the review) will now be passed to the World Sailing Council, who will vote on approving the Events Committee decision by 19 February 2018.

World Sailing's Council, the policy-making body, will then meet on 14 and 15 May to make the final decision on the Events, the name of the competition, based-on advice from the expert committees.

Click image for a larger image

So, challenging times for the Finn as an Olympic class, but for the current class of 2018 all eyes are on the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The European season begins next week with around 50 Finns taking part in the Semaine Internationale De Cannes, the traditional icebreaker for the season.

However, many top sailors are already in Cádiz training for the European Championship, which has attracted nearly 100 entries so far. It begins on March 9, and is preceded by the Andalusian Olympic Week.

The other high points of the season will be the amazingly successful Finn World Masters, which this year heads back to Spain, at El Bális, near Barcelona, and the U23 World Championship, in Koper, Slovenia,

With only 19 spots available in Tokyo, competition will be intense. Fifteen of the 23 sailors who took part in Rio are now on the campaign trail and have their sights set on the land of the rising sun in two years time.

Giles Scott Miami - Click image for a larger image

The return of the 2016 Olympic Champion, Britain's Giles Scott, in Miami a few weeks ago, and his inevitable win, has thrown down the gauntlet to the fleet to step up to the mark and challenge him for class supremacy.

Even in the 18 months since Rio, technique has moved on and sailors are trying out new ideas.

The advent of free pumping was a eureka moment for the class. Suddenly the sailors could use their immense power and strength to enjoy the Finn to the full, for sailing the boat downwind in a breeze is a powerful experience.

With the class now experimenting with dropping the wind limit for free pumping from 10 to 8 knots, as it was dropped from 12 to 10 knots in 2010, it is evidence enough of the vastly increased fitness and athletic ability of the top of the fleet.

In any sort of breeze, the Finn requires enormous physical capabilities and huge power and strength reserves to be able to drive the boat at maximum speed for the duration of the race.

The better you get at it, the easier it becomes, but the fundamental requirement is power. Lots of it.

Finn fiun in Rio - Click image for a larger image

The famous seaworthiness of the boat allows race organisers to run races for the Finn even in extreme wind and wave conditions.

A good example of that was the exceptionally tough medal race at the 2008 Olympics in Qingdao, as well as two days in Rio in 2016, when the Finn fleet was one of the few fleets allowed onto the open ocean on the big wind days.

Those two days outside Guanabara Bay provided some of the most spectacular and dramatic sailing footage and images ever seen by viewers of the Olympics.

But that is only half the story; the tolerances in the boat and the adaptable rig enable a hugely diverse group of people to race on even terms.

There is no need to be a certain weight or a certain height – though certainly the upper range of either would help – as the rig can be modified to suit a sailor’s style and physical traits so he can sail as fast as the guy in the next boat.

That’s easy in theory, but hard in practice, and that is a large part of the challenge, and the attraction, of the Finn.

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